Category Archives: College of Public Health and Human Services

Bone marrow transplants save lives, but can it keep our bones strong?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This phrase is often helpful when fighting adversity, but it does not hold true for patients suffering from diseases such as leukemia, tuberculosis, and certain forms of anemia. Current medical science allows us to save lives, but their quality of life is curtailed because bones are typically weaker and prone to breaking as a result of cancer treatments. Patients may have endured countless surgeries, drug rehabilitation, and physical therapy only to have their level of physical activity severely limited because of the complications posed from fragile bones.

Goldner’s trichrome staining, in which mineralized bone matrix, erythrocytes, and cytoplasm were stained green, orange, and red, respectively. Credit: Burr, David B., and Matthew R. Allen, eds. Basic and applied bone biology. Academic Press, 2013.

At the center of this problem is bone marrow, and working to find a solution is Richard Deyhle, a Masters student studying Radiation Health Physics, believes we may have found a way to treat these cancers while also increasing our bone strength to previous levels of functionality. This work is in the proof-of-concept phase so it’s still early in the framework of medical application to the public but there is little doubt this can provide miraculous benefits to cancer patients providing them a higher quality of life.

Richard working on generating a 3D visualization of Micro-Computed Tomography data.

 

First it’s important to understand that even though bone marrow only accounts for ~4% of our body mass, it’s also the production source of red blood cells (carrying oxygen throughout our body), blood platelets (helping to clot blood to prevent blood loss), and white blood cells (major players in our immune system keeping us healthy). Cancer treatments focus on treating and restoring the healthy function of bone marrow so we can live. Kind of important stuff! But the health of the bone marrow does not always correspond to strong bones. This is where Richard, working under Urszula Iwaniec & Russell Turner in the Skeletal Biology Lab at OSU, brings their expertise to find new ways to treat malfunctioning bone marrow.

Micro-Computed Tomography image of the radius bone from a rat from Space Shuttle Mission, STS-41.

Bone marrow is made of many subcomponents, and standard medical practice is to replace a patient’s bone marrow (containing all subcomponents) with bone marrow from a compatible donor. Depending on the extent of transplant, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000,000 cells that are replaced representing the mosaic of cells that make up bone marrow. Richard is using a more targeted approach of purifying bone marrow and isolating a subcomponent, called Hematopoietic stem cells, so a transplant will only need a few thousand of these special cells to perform the same function as the much larger transplant. Using mice models his lab has found similar results as other researchers showing the use of pure Hematopoietic stem cells, instead of bulk bone marrow material, has similar effects on bone marrow functionality. Through the use of Green Fluorescent Protein (as a bookmark in the newly injected cells allowing researchers to trace where cells move through the body), the Skeletal Biology Lab hopes to better understand the mechanism of bone strength resilience to a healthy functioning bone marrow. Like any good scientific study, much more work needs to be done to examine these results and verify effect sizes, but the road ahead looks promising.

Richard’s childhood home was nestled away from large cities that allowed him to stare at the sky and see the Milky Way in all its beauty. Even at a young age he wondered about space, wondered how far humans can go, and wondered how he can help keep future explorers safe as we explore distant worlds. These youthful curiosities of space eventually lead to his research passion of understanding how radiation affects the human body. If all his plans work out he hopes to transition into a PhD program where he can focus more closely on making sure our fragile human bodies can explore worlds beyond ours.

If you’re interested in new medical advancements that can be used to treat cancer or astronauts, you cannot miss this episode! Be sure to tune in Sunday May 7th at 7PM on KBVR Corvallis 88.7FM or by listening live.

The hurdles for a college education are not the same for all students

The majority of college students today had the privilege of transitioning from high school to college in a year or less, making the transition to higher education easy. I think it’s safe to say our freshman-selves would’ve argued with the term “easy transition”. But what happens if you needed a gap year to decide what major to pursue, or needed to work and save money so you could even pay for college. Unfortunately, this gap year (often years) for many students leads them to pursue a career without a higher education limiting their potential achievements in the long-run. Furthermore, many in disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds don’t even consider the possibility of obtaining a college degree because it’s fiscally impossible, or they simply don’t know anyone who has a higher degree so they can’t relate to anyone. A college education has become a necessity in the job market, and in order for everyone to have a fair fight towards the American dream we need to level the playing field.

Our guest tonight focuses on how social policy influences the accessibility of higher education to people of lower incomes, non-traditional, and first generation students. Terese Jones, a 4th year Ph.D. student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, explores the institutional and personal hurdles that prevent many people from obtaining a higher education. Imagine trying to pay for college when most scholarships are geared towards the younger demographic, or trying to adjust to a rigorous 10-week quarter system from a “9-5” job. You begin to see a picture of why going back to school after a career, or even a few years away from school, can become difficult to transition back into.

Terese and Quinlan painting together at the 2016 Bring Your Kid to Campus Day. Terese chairs the Student Parent Advisory Board at OSU, and works with the office of Childcare and Family Resources to advocate for affordable and accessible childcare for OSU students. There are many benefits to having children on college campuses, for both kids and college students.

One of the theories Terese is exploring is called the cumulative advantage theory as a potential explanation for why students of lower socioeconomic status do not succeed to the same degree as their more affluent counterparts. Think about moving to an entirely new city where you don’t know anyone and need to find a job. If you have money in the bank you can get an apartment and start looking for a job in your field; however if you’ve moved with no money you’re likely to take the first job coming your way to pay for an apartment before you ever think of looking for a job you will enjoy. 30 years later the person who had money has advanced in their career far quicker compared to the person who arrived empty handed. The benefits of a small advantage at the beginning of ones life, produces a disproportionate benefit through their life-course when compared to someone who did not have the small advantage at the beginning.

Terese also remembers her mother going back to school to finish her GED when she was only 12, but the difficulty her mom had with finishing school while maintaining a full household was extremely challenging. Even though Terese has extensive experience with the social system working in Chicago with the homeless, and Seattle at a women’s shelter, she still found that some applications and processes were just plain confusing and hard to fit into her schedule. This troubling experience led her to realize even though she’s familiar with the paperwork, the process was not trivial which gave her the motivation to pursue a higher degree at Oregon State.

Quinlan and Terese, after completing the Turkey Trot! The family that runs together gets leg cramps together!

Quinlan and Terese, after completing the Turkey Trot! The family that runs together gets leg cramps together!

Tune in tonight to hear this terrific story of how Terese aims to continue helping others as she focuses on some programs at Linn-Benton Community College can increase the chances students attend and finish a college degree. You can listen online here or on 88.7FM at 7PM!